With two weeks to go, where the Phillies stand in the expanded NL playoff picture | Extra Innings
If the season ended Sunday, the Phillies would have the No. 7 seed in the National League despite having the sixth-best record.
In four days, the Phillies' season turned into a medical drama.
J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins will climb into MRI tubes in South Florida today to determine the severity of their hip and forearm injuries, respectively. Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Zack Wheeler, who will throw a bullpen session to test whether he might be able to pitch through the mangled fingernail on his right hand.
That’s more suspense than an old episode of E.R.
Oh, and after the Phillies were swept in a doubleheader Sunday, the finale of a seven-game series in Miami is shaping up to be fairly meaningful, too. Win and the Phillies move back into second place in the National League East. Lose and they fall 1 1/2 games behind the Marlins.
Big day, eh? Yeah, you could say that.
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Where do Phillies stand in expanded playoff picture?
Like almost everything else about pandemic baseball, the playoffs will look a little different this year.
For starters, eight teams in each league will qualify for postseason play, an increase from the five-team fields that have existed since 2012. Every team will play a best-of-three first-round series, with the No. 1 seed facing No. 8, No. 2 facing No. 7, and so on, with every game played at the home of the higher seed.
Beyond that, the format will continue with the usual best-of-five division series, best-of-seven League Championship Series, and the World Series.
Pending approval from the Players Association, Major League Baseball is planning to move to a bubble format beginning with the division series. The National League teams would play in Texas (Houston and Arlington), and the American League clubs would head to Southern California (Los Angeles and San Diego).
Given all the changes, it’s probably helpful, with two weeks left in the season, to check on where the Phillies stand in the expanded postseason field.
At 23-22, the Phillies have the sixth-best record in the NL. But because they are in third place, a half-game behind the Marlins, they would be the No. 7 seed. (First-place teams will be the Nos. 1-3 seeds; second-place clubs will be Nos. 4-6.)
Here’s a look at the first-round matchups, if the season ended Sunday:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (32-14) vs. 8. San Francisco Giants (23-24)
2. Atlanta Braves (28-19) vs. 7. Phillies
3. Chicago Cubs (28-20) vs. 6. St. Louis Cardinals (20-20)
4. San Diego Padres (31-17) vs. 5. Marlins (23-21)
The Phillies don’t necessarily have to leapfrog the Marlins, then, to qualify for the postseason. In fact, unless they win the NL East, they almost certainly won’t host a first-round series given how well the Dodgers and Padres have played in the NL West.
But the Phillies would much rather line up Aaron Nola for Game 1 of the first round rather than having to start him in the season’s final weekend at Tampa Bay in order to fend off the Giants, Colorado Rockies (21-25), Milwaukee Brewers (20-24), or another challenger for the No. 7 or 8 seed.
For what it’s worth, FiveThirtyEight.com gives the Phillies an 82% chance of making the playoffs. It will be interesting to see what happens to those odds if Realmuto and/or Hoskins has to miss most of the final 15 games.
Joe Girardi is eager to get more information about the injuries to Realmuto and Hoskins, as Matt Breen writes.
Bob Brookover never would’ve guessed that getting shut down by Sixto Sanchez, their former top prospect, wouldn’t be the worst thing that happened to the Phillies this weekend.
Speaking of Sanchez, I took a closer look at how the teams pulled off the Realmuto/Sanchez trade 19 months ago, while Brooky opined that the only way the Phillies can win the deal now is to re-sign Realmuto. Can’t say that I disagree.
Rookie starter Spencer Howard went on the 10-day disabled list with right-shoulder stiffness, casting doubt over whether he will pitch again this season.
Today: Phillies wrap up seven-game series in Miami, 4:10 p.m.
Tomorrow: Jake Arrieta starts opener vs. Mets at home, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Aaron Nola vs. Jacob deGrom in a rematch of aces, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Phillies and Mets play series finale, 7:05 p.m.
Friday: Blue Jays visit for a doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park, 4:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
Sunday marked the Phillies' sixth doubleheader this season and third in a six-day span. They have two more to go: Friday at home against the Toronto Blue Jays and Sept. 22 in Washington.
Thus far, they have split three twinbills (Aug. 5 vs. the New York Yankees, last Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox, Friday in Miami) and gotten swept in three (Aug. 9 vs. the Braves, Aug. 20 against the Blue Jays in Buffalo, N.Y., and Sunday in Miami).
Not great, right? Well, doubleheaders haven’t been the Phillies' thing for several years. In fact, they haven’t won both games of a doubleheader since Sept. 9, 2012 against Colorado, highlighted by John Mayberry Jr.'s walk-off single in the first game.
Since then, the Phillies have been swept in 12 doubleheaders and split nine.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Answer: Thanks, @Tgreenwood10, for the question. Until Realmuto gets the MRI results, it’s impossible to know for certain how much Rafael Marchan will play. But the Phillies didn’t call up the 21-year-old catching prospect to rot on the bench. And without a day off until Sept. 24, there will be opportunities for him to show what he can do.
We do know this much: Girardi likes Marchan. In spring training, the manager referred to him as the “block master” because of his abilities behind the plate.
Answer: Lots of variations on this question, @beersnob20. To be honest, I’m not sure where ownership will come down on general manager Matt Klentak if the Phillies miss the playoffs, or even if they get swept in the wild-card round.
There’s probably a cogent argument to be made that a 60-game season in the midst of COVID-19 is too random to draw definitive conclusions. But Klentak acknowledges that the expectation for this year’s team is to win. By that standard, missing the playoffs would be an abject failure.
Let’s just say this: If the Phillies don’t finish among the league’s top eight teams with one of baseball’s highest payrolls, managing partner John Middleton is going to ask Klentak do some explaining.